'Formal' in-person Oscars in hands of veteran director

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The Oscars will be broadcast in part from downtown Los Angeles' cavernous Union Station

No Zoom speeches, no jeans, and a returning veteran director: this year's pandemic-hit Oscars ceremony started to take shape Friday.

The show on April 25, which will conclude a much-delayed Hollywood awards season, is taking place in Los Angeles with extensive Covid-19 testing precautions for nominees and their guests.

The Oscars will be directed for a sixth time by Glenn Weiss, the Emmy-winning live-show expert, and produced by a team including "Contagion" director Steven Soderbergh, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Friday.

"Our plan is that this year's Oscars will look like a movie, not a television show, and Glenn has embraced this approach and come up with ideas of his own on how to achieve this," Soderbergh and his fellow producers said in a statement.

"We're thrilled to have him as part of the brain trust."

Academy President David Rubin this week confirmed the show would be held at downtown Los Angeles' cavernous Union Station, as well as its traditional base at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre.

A letter sent to nominees, and confirmed to AFP Friday by a source familiar with the contents, informed those up for awards that there would be no option to dial in remotely if they win -- a feature used at last month's poorly reviewed Golden Globes.

"We are going to great lengths to provide a safe and enjoyable evening for all of you in person, as well as for all the millions of film fans around the world, and we feel the virtual thing will diminish those efforts," wrote the producers.

Urging nominees to attend "an intimate, in-person event" at Union Station, the producers assured stars that there will be "specially designed testing cadences to ensure up-to-the-minute results, including an on-site Covid safety team with PCR testing capability."

"Additional show elements" will come from the Dolby Theatre, just a few miles away in Hollywood.

And in a seeming nod to some of the relaxed dress choices seen at the virtual Globes, Oscars producers added that "formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not."

The details follow a largely in-person Grammys that took place in Los Angeles last weekend, which was praised by many watchers even as viewing figures continued to fall.

This year's Oscars were delayed by eight weeks to April 25 after Covid-19 shuttered movie theaters, upended Hollywood's release calendar and placed live events on indefinite hold last spring.

California's severe winter coronavirus outbreak has rapidly eased in recent weeks, with movie theaters in Los Angeles allowed to reopen at limited capacity this week after a full year of closure.

Signaling their hope for a return to a new normal, producers used their letter to promise Oscar nominees "a safe, carefree evening (a glimpse of the future?)"

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